This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

March 22, 2000 - The Inner Life

My daughter's "first book" -- by which I mean the first book where she was able to identify all the words -- was Goodnight Moon. My son, Perry, who turned six a little over a month ago, now has his first book (although he hasn't quite got all the words). Perry has learned to read from ... a paperback collection of Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. Cool, huh?

Perry requested Calvin and Hobbes every night as his bedtime story. And he paid close attention, sometimes having me reread various words that caught his fancy. This has given him a pretty surprising reading vocabulary for a six year old.

I don't push particular books at him, although I do try to slip in my favorites. But any place he starts reading is fine with me. As a librarian, I know that everything connects to everything else eventually.

For instance, my cataloging class final had one question: find the shortest number of subject links between "concrete" and "brassiere." My first thought, and probably yours, was, "No way! There are no links." I was wrong.

Give up? One subject heading embraces them both: "foundations."

But back to Calvin and Hobbes. While Calvin is not, generally speaking, the sort of child you'd pick for your son's role model, he is, as Perry says seriously, "Very imaginative." Calvin's world is populated with dinosaurs, aliens, and monsters, particularly when he's supposed to be doing something else, such as paying attention.

What makes Calvin so interesting to me is this: he has an inner life. The older I get, the more important I think that is.

Like many children of my generation, I grew up in front of the TV. Probably, no joke, I watched five hours a day on Saturday, and probably close to that even on week nights. These days, however, I donít think I've watched a whole TV show in several years (although we do rent videos).

Why? Because I never see anything on the tube that's as interesting as the things going on in my own head. And in my head, there are no commercial interruptions.

If you don't have an inner life -- by which I mean things you ponder, marvel over, connections you explore, insights that shock or dismay you -- then it seems to me that you're liable to get hooked on all kinds of irrelevant stimulus. TV is one of them. Peer pressure is another. And then, God save us, there's all the other chatter of our culture: shopping malls, new cars, opinion polls, radio talk shows, and even (sorry, son) Pokèmon.

So how do you get a rich inner life? Well, I think the short answer is: solitude. I think it's also not a bad idea to read, but then, for many readers, that's the whole purpose of solitude. (I'd also entertain the notion that solitude is the purpose of reading.)

When you get absorbed in a book, you're on a different kind of time altogether. You perceive reality through imagination, according to an interior clock. Moments spent reading can cover years, even centuries, of experience. Contrariwise, a whole book of many hundreds of pages might cover just one day.

I've had the pleasure of hearing Tom Sutherland speak. He's the Coloradan who spent years as a hostage in Iran. Reading gave Tom Sutherland something to do during his long imprisonment -- at least when books were available. But when nothing was available, all the books he'd read before gave him something to think about, characters to remember, situations and ideas to probe in his imagination. As a result, even in his captivity, Sutherland was one of the freest people on the planet.

All of us will go through periods of stress in our lives, although it probably it won't be anything like what the Sutherlands suffered. Our ability to survive these periods depends, most of all, on our cultivation of a rich inner life, not tied to the vicissitudes of the moment.

Or as my cataloging instructor might have put it, reading your way to an inner life provides what might be an important ... foundation.

No comments:

Post a Comment